St. Patrick’s Day myths, on-post events in Stuttgart

Munich St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Germany. Photo by Holly DeCarlo-White

By Teri Weiss
Special to The Stuttgart Citizen

The best known, and without doubt the most popular holiday in March is St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. All over the world, including here in Germany, it is celebrated with marches and parades. And in the Stuttgart area, too, there are numerous “wearers of the green” of all nationalities sure to raise a cup of cheer or two.

According to Edward O’Donnell, historian at Holy Cross College, there are a number of generalizations and myths about this popular saint that ought to be set straight:

#1 St. Patrick was Irish.   Not exactly.  Based on his own account he was most likely from south western Britain. Was Ireland’s patron saint actually “English”? No one in the 5th century A.D. was what we would call “English.” Rather, the people living in England were Romanized Celts, or Britons. Patrick thus is more accurately called a Celtic Briton, son of a low-level Roman official.

#2 St. Patrick was the first Christian missionary to Ireland. Contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick was not the first Christian missionary in Ireland, though he was certainly the most successful.  There is evidence of missionaries traveling through Ireland by the late fourth century A.D. The best-known missionary before Patrick was Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine in 431 A.D. to minister to “the Irish who believe in Christ.”

#3 St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach about Christianity. One of the most enduring tales of St. Patrick is that he used the shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity by comparing the three clover leaves with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the pagan Celts of Ireland. The legend is unverifiable, since Patrick doesn’t mention it in his writings. Some missionary, if not Patrick himself, Christianized this concept. Few in Ireland seem troubled by these details and the shamrock remains the Irish national symbol.

#4 St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.  Ireland never had any snakes to drive away. Separated from England, where snakes of all sorts abound, and the European continent thousands of years earlier, Ireland emerged from the Ice Age snake-free. In any case, “since Patrick’s arrival in Ireland no snakes have been sighted,” according to the book, “1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.”

#5 The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is an Irish tradition.  Actually, the parade was invented in Manhattan, New York.  The practice of honoring St. Patrick on March 17, understood as the day of his death (c. 493) at Downpatrick in County Down, is a tradition that did come from old Ireland. For centuries the people of Ireland marked the day as a solemn religious event, many wearing green, sporting a shamrock, and attending mass, but little more. Certainly, there were no parades.

No one knows for sure when the first commemoration of St. Patrick’s Day in America took place. One of the earliest references is to the establishment of the Charitable Irish Society, founded on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston in 1737. Another early celebration took place in New York City in 1762, when an Irishman named John Marshall held a party.

The first recorded true parade took place in 1766 in New York when local military units, including some Irish soldiers in the British army, marched at dawn. With few exceptions, the parade in New York has been held every year since then. Thus was a tradition born – an American tradition which was only much later adopted in Ireland.  Cheers!

Source:  “1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History” (Broadway Books)

St. Patrick’s Day Events

St. Patrick’s Day at the USO Center March 15

Stop by the USO Center, Bldg. 2915, Panzer Kaserne, wearing festive green, and join in for games or to find the leprechaun.

Irish Dance Performance at Exchange March 16

At 4 p.m. head over to the Panzer Main Exchange for an Irish Dance performance by community youth performers.

Eve Glenn Irish dancing at the Drake School. Photo courtesy of the Glenn Family.

MWR Tours Trip to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day March 16 – 19

Trip includes roundtrip transportation from Dublin airport to hotel , three nights lodging with breakfast buffets, entrance ticket to the Guinness Storehouse, and plenty of free time to explore. Cost: $459 per person (flight to Dublin not included). Call DSN 431-2104 / CIV 07031-15-2104.

The Shamrock 5k Trail Run/Walk March 17

The run begins at 9 a.m. from the Irish Pub at the Galaxy Bowling and Entertainment Center on Panzer Kaserne. The run is pet and stroller friendly. Advance registration is available at the Patch or Panzer Fitness Center through Mar. 16, cost: $15 per individual or $40 per family. Register the day of the event starting at 7:30 a.m. and cost is $20 per individual or $50 per family. Show your spirit and wear green.

St. Patrick’s Day at Panzer Irish Pub March 17

Stop in the Irish Pub at the Galaxy Bowling and Entertainment Center from 4 p.m. to midnight to  enjoy drink specials to include green colored shamrock beer, an Irish mule, and a shamrock shake. Have a chance to win in bowling prizes, and enjoy bowling with green bowling balls and festive bowling pins. Raffles are drawn every 30 minutes, starting at 8 p.m. For information, call DSN 431-2575 / CIV 07031-15-2575.

Free Irish Lunch at USO Stuttgart March 21

The USO Center, Bldg. 2915, Panzer Kaserne, hosts a free quarterly lunch, while supplies last. Stop by at 11:30 a.m. for Irish specialties made by USO volunteers including: cottage pie, potato soup, and salad. No RSVP needed, lunch is free for all.

Find information about Things To Do on and off-post on the USAG Stuttgart mobile app available in your mobile app store.